*Article originally written in 2012
It may be obvious, but it's important for me to like what I do. Being able to wake up each morning without dreading my day is something that I always wanted.
"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."
I've been fortunate enough to have a job that doesn't feel a lot like 'work' in the traditional sense of the word. I work for an online publisher of university courseware called MyEducator (www.myeducator.com). We publish textbooks and create online courses for universities and academic institutions throughout the world. Things are going pretty well, we're seeing more and more growth each day. In our industry technology is an amazing leveler. It allows us to be viable in such a competitive atmosphere. The textbook publishing industry is valued at billions, traditional publishers have large staffs, abundant resources, and years of experience. However technology enables our small outfit to carve out a significant niche in the market. During my time at MyEducator, I feel like I've received an additional education on top of that which I received at Utah State University. One thing apparent to me early was that I didn't really have a lot to offer in terms of hard skills. If I could go back to school again I'd most likely study MIS, or something else a little more technical. Having written that, I still think that the most valuable skill that any businessperson or manager can possess is the ability to be personable and interact well with groups of people, however why not merge that with some hard skills? Over the last year I feel like I've acquired, coding, accounting, and business development skills. Learning these new skills opens up a world of different possibilities that can be explored. Suffice it to say, I've observed that learning about private sector enterprise and living it are two very different learning experiences. I have a new found respect for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Also I really admire innovative thinkers, people who possess a long-term vision of an industry or marketplace. It's a skill or characteristic that I wish that I had in more abundance (along with the coding and back-end developing skills that I am painfully learning how to do). Despite my naivety as it pertains to private sector enterprise, I've been able to make some observations about our industry.
We, as consumers, are all different. We value certain goods and services over others. If I'm an avid health enthusiast, I may be more likely to spend money on running shoes and gym fees than my neighbor who doesn't exercise at all. Also most consumers won't put up with paying for something that they deem too expensive, I know this may seem evident, but it's important to understand. It is difficult to paint a general brush over all consumers, and predict their behavior. However, there are certain goods and services with high prices that people are pre-conditioned to accept. Health/Medical care, buying a car or home, and most relevant to me, eduction, or more precisely, higher education.
Education is one of those things that people see as an investment, and as a result, are willing to pay more to have it. Parents and students pay hundreds of thousands of dollars each year so that they can receive their degrees. Our company is providing a product that fits into this higher education ecosystem. Thanks to our technology, we are sustainable by offering a great product at a fraction of the price. Books and courses are so expensive that we can afford to offer an alternative option that has just as much quality, and a much more reasonable price for the student and institution. However it does help that we are dealing with an industry where people are willing to spend more money to have it.
We started about a year and a half ago, and I was lucky enough to be there at the very beginning. The exciting element of my job comes in the freedom that I enjoy. Being apart of a new company is both exciting and daunting. We're operating out of Logan, Utah right now, however we're moving to Provo at the end of the month.
A definite allure to what I do is the international element. As a company we're trying to grow beyond our own borders here in the US. We've had one of our books adopted in over 33 countries. We're piloting courses with universities in South America and Asia. We want to have our courses adopted and being used in classrooms across the globe. Hopefully this means some globe trotting for myself, something that I haven't done in a while.
I would love to get to a point where we actually visit some of these schools that are using our products. I've got a bucket list of places in the world that I want to visit, maybe MyEducator will prove to be a vehicle to see some of these places.
My job has given me a detailed look into the life of one of the world's more interesting type of people, the university professor. Our company was founded by two professors, who just happened to be brothers as well.
Having already gone through college, I've had my share of interaction with many college professors, and loved many of them, but my job at MyEducator gives me a different perspective. We film them, work with them, and assist them in the writing process. Not surprisingly, many of them are smart, analytical, and personable people. Honestly I find that being a tenured professor at a great university would be an ideal career. Professors get to help educate young minds, they do research and become experts in certain areas of expertise, and it seems like they enjoy nice flexibility when it comes to work/life balance. It would be worth trying to make it through a PhD program.
Just this past week we took an afternoon to film two of our accounting professors for a Financial Accounting course that we are organizing. The two professors that we filmed are incredibly influential educators, and some of the most well-respected minds in all of accounting. We filmed them in a really unique location, it was actually at the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo, Utah. The hospital has a classic castle behind it built on cobblestone, it looked great. I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks.
Overall I think that our company is in a great place. We're moving and expanding so I'm in for an exciting few months. The nature of start-ups is one of high risk and high reward, I'm hoping not to have to endure too much of the former. Hopefully we can keep the momentum and enjoyment coming. I'm hoping that in doing so Confucius' words will continue to ring true for me for my job.